You folks probably don't need me to tell you how the whole marketing/retail/publicity angle of noveldom bears very little resemblence to a) the idealistic perception of a "quality=success" formula, and b) fairness.

It's a lottery. And it's fixed. For first time authors (yo), or those writing tricksy fiction which falls a little beyond clearly defined genre boundaries (double-yo), or those whose work is absolutely NOT intended for the safe, comfortable, oh-please-god-don't-challenge-us Mainstream (triple-yo), your chances of getting a big noisy marketing campaign are slightly lower than JFK showing-up alive and well in a Yeti commune in Tibet. That's a fact.

Depressing though it may be, I will never see my debut novel splashed on the side of London buses, clogging-up posters on the Underground, or being discussed ad-nauseum on the fecking Richard and Judy show (US readers: imagine if Oprah was white, alcoholic, braindead, and married to a living personification of the word "smug", presenting a daily show about Any Old Dross. That's the current literary trend-setter in the UK. Huzzah). So short of waiting for reviewers to recognise the novel's obvious brilliance (gulp), I'm left with the Internet as a way of drumming-up interest pre-publication.

Don't worry, I'm not going to use this as an extended advert for my own book. What I WOULD like to ask is whether any of you have an experience or advice in this field. My publishers and I have spent many hours discussing this stuff. It seems that "blog-force" can be a truly powerful thing: just look at the success of bands like The Arctic Monkeys, or movies like Snakes on a Plane - neither of which would've done as well as they have were it not for the huge 'net interest they created, which gave them the momentum to roll-on into the "real-world" mainstream.

But novels aren't quite the same, are they? It's one thing to invite people to listen to a 3 minute single and expect them to endorse the entire album, or to let them jigger-about with movie clips and script excerpts. But novels? I mean... for me half the joy of a novel is its portability: the organic sense of holding something in your hands and reading, be it in a park, in the bath, on the lav or in bed. You can't do the same if you're dragging your computer about with you.

Nonetheless, my publishers (and I) feel that modernisation has to start somewhere. To the best of our knowledge no one (certainly not in the UK, and certainly not any of the "big" publishers) are using the Internet cleverly enough yet. There's this reliance on library hardbacks as a cultural inroad, which nobody ever buys and which very rarely make any money.

So our scheme is simply this: after weeks of building-up interest in odd corners of the Internet - MySpace, blogs, etc etc - we're unveiling a website dedicated to the novel, which will allow visitors to read it for free. In chunks, that is, with a fresh section becoming available every two weeks, and the option to buy the hardback at any stage (at a discount). At the end of the period the book is taken down from the site, then the paperback becomes available 6 weeks later.

The idea (as I understand it) is to simply allow people to get buzzing about the book. If anyone has the patience and cheapskate-dedication to read the whole thing for free, good for them: it's a loss leader we're prepared to endure if it generates a bit of conversation on the 'net. And in the mean time people have always got the option to get fed-up of reading the bloody thing on their screen, and hit the "buy hardback" icon instead.

This ENTIRE thing is intended to allow us, ultimately, to approach the retailers with the paperback and say: "Hey, yeah, we know it's a debut author, we know it's a tricky genre book, but it's created aaaaaaall this Internet interest. You can't afford NOT to stock it..."

...which all sounds fine and clever and sneaky on paper.

But will it work? Have any of you had similar experiences? Any glowing or doom-filled thoughts on this unusual method of marketing? Any marketing stories of your own? Etc etc.

One of the greatest shocks I've had since becoming an "author" - that still sounds so pompous to me! - was that the actually writing-the-book-bit is far from being the whole story. You've also got to be part-publicist, part-schmoozer, part-marketing-guru, part-blah blah blah. It's maddening!


(For the record, the ball starts rolling here: It's All About The Money )

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No marketing stories of my own to share (I've written the odd article - that's about it), but this does seem like an interesting approach to things. There are online magazines I read and I look forward to the next edition coming out, so I can imagine returning to a site regularly to continue reading a story I was hooked on. And, as you say, there's always the option to buy the book at any time. Publishing in installments is an established literary tradition, too, so you're taking an approach with proven appeal and using modern technology to deliver. It'll be interesting to see how it works - good luck with it!
Well, the thing of it is, you still have to get people to your site and that's the buggery bit. Press releases, I suppose, and sending out the word to the blogosphere, but will that translate to amazing interest? I hope so. Do you have a publicist? Are there a lot of book groups in the UK? You could certainly try to market to them with offers of one free copy to the group for discussion. Would it appeal to a university crowd? Can you get speaking engagements there? Other groups it would appeal to to get the buzz going? I understand that selling in the UK may be harder than selling in the US. I think we all feel for you on this (hell, I'm not even published yet, but I've been working on an internet platform for ages.) It's so complicated, isn't it?
As a long time "publisher" of an online webzine I have to agree with the above sentiment, "you still have to get people to your site and that's the buggery bit." Your plan sounds good but you may end up doing more to publicize the website than you would the book. Don't get me wrong, I think the "internet" is becoming a major media in its own right and it is good to have *something* about your book online. Again, your current plan sounds good and I hope you'll keep people aware of how it's going but I would focus on the real reader of your book. What kind of a person are they? Where would they hang out? What book stores or other places would they go? Would your prospective Reader even use the Internet very much?
Oh, bleh. I don't envy any of the debut authors dealing with the marketing crap-ola. Actually your idea sounds a lot like another author that Seth Godin was touting on his blog (last month, I think). I can't remember the author's name (and the tiny bit of his book I read wasn't super-duper-pow! enough to hold my attention), but he basically made his novel available in full as an e-book for free (also for a limited time) with the hopes that readers would then want to own the book. Very risky for a debut, IMO. But, y'know, guess it's worth a try.

A newer trend for novels is along the lines of bands and movies - book trailers in video format. I've seen some good ones. I've even seen a few that made me think "ooh, that sounds like something I need to read." The trick there is to understand the dif. between the mediums. A super-long trailer is not your friend - *yawn*. A trailer composed entirely of blurbs from best-selling authors says nothing except that other people liked your book - *double yawn*. A trailer that is all vibe and doesn't give a bare bones concept of the book won't make most readers sit up and think "must read NOW" - *zzzz*.

The fine line to tread is how to get your name and book known w/o getting mired in BSP that ends up turning people off. There's already been a ton of discussion on this topic, so I won't go over tired territory again. Okay...maybe just a little. For me, the general rule of thumb is "be interesting and I will want to know more about you and your book." The flip side, of course, is "constant BSP will result in a Pavlovian gag response to seeing your name or your book title."

So...good luck with that! Should be a veddy interesting experiment.
Sorry - newbie mode. BSP?

The video viral idea is something I've considered. My feeling is that if you're attempting to advertise a product in a non-dynamic medium (ie: a novel, a comic, etc), then using a dynamic medium (ie: a video) is asking for trouble: it creates all the wrong expectations and usually looks a bit tacky.

Best compromise, I think, would be a photofilm -- something like La Jetee, albeit with static photographs used to illustrate an excerpt of the novel.
BSP - Blatant Self-Promotion

Seriously, go back and read some of the threads here on the Forum on BSP and Promotion. Should give you a wide range of opinions and examples. Also, the FAQ section has Crimespace's policy on promotion & a bit on why.

I've seen some slide show stylie book trailers. They can work, but helps if you have a friend who is experienced with vid/film to get the timing right. The human brain/attention span is an amazing thing when you get into visuals. Oh, and good music (use with permission unless you wanna leave yourself open to all kinds of fines) can make a huge difference.
Groovetastic - many thanks.

Aaaand, as a sidenote, for the sake of paranoid clarification, I really do hope my above spiel isn't confused with (great acroynm, by the way) BSP. I'm very nervous about the way they've chosen to market the novel, and am simply on the lookout for any advice or thoughts from everyone here. Nothing cynical intended.

Apologies also if I'm retreading old ground. I'll wade through the archives as soon as I can.
I think the YouTube style of ads is going to be the norm for the future (I'm already planning mine) but then again, I have an advertising background and think in images. But I think that the crossover from print to video to print will be inherent with the new generation of readers (they are there). Youth love the technology, so giving it a nod--whether a freebie book on your website for a limited time, or a video, or whatever--is thinking positively.
No need for paranoia. Didn't think you were BSPing, just trying to offer some other resources!
Simon, you are absolutely right and much wiser than I was as a debut author. At least in the UK the publishers do discuss promotion with you. Here the book gets tossed out in the marketplace without the least help (usually). I didn't realize until quite recently that publishers have to pay for book signings, display on "new arrivals tables", display on special shelves, etc. They also pay for ads and promotional events if you are one of the chosen. And they pay for book tours. But mostly, they don't bother.
As for your idea: someone has tried this here (or is still trying it). Not sure of the result. Amazon runs amazon shorts. Apparently that includes chapter by chapter releases of novels. The cost ($0.49) is insignificant, but you get some advertising and links to your title. I found this mildly useful. And of course your web site is a place where you can divulge all or a little of your novel.
As for blogs: I think there may be too many of them. I know I cannot keep up with all the sites of people I'm interested in, let alone writers that are unfamiliar.
Almost all of my promotion and exposure has been via the internet, and with essentially no publisher support it's been on me to do it myself.

There are definitely ways to do it, and ways not to do it, and it's like being a one-legged man trying to navigate a minefield on a pogo stick.

Word of mouth is also huge.

And I've probably done more spiel on promotion lately than I ever want to in the rest of my life, some of which you can read here on my blog if you're interested in my 2 cents. But what works for one may not work for another. There's no formula. My advice (and this is a bit late for you in your case) is to be navigating the online communities & lists (DorothyL, for example) much earlier, when you sign your contract. Lurk and watch and learn. You'll see who gets knocked on their arse for pissing people off and figure out how to get word out without offending people. It's a delicate balance.

And a real shame there isn't more networking and support amongst debut authors. We can all benefit from the experience of others. No matter what the etiquette we're all learning.
I'll say this - I followed the link you provided and eventually made my way to a myspace site (I think) but never saw the sample chapters. Of course, I'm old and easily confused which might explain the difficulty.

Frankly, I don't think I see this promotional plan working (not just because I couldn't find my way into it). A sample chapter is fine, but I think the idea that the entire book will eventually be available would be a distraction for me as a potential buyer. If I stand in a bookstore and like your first chapter, you've made the sale, but the gimick here sounds like this to me - I stand in the bookstore, like your first chapter, go up to the register and have the salesperson say "don't forget, you could just read another chapter to be sure..." of course, I'm easily confused AND easily distracted...

Also, if a person wasn't around for the first two weeks of the promotion, will they be starting with chapters three and four? Or do they have access to 1 & 2 also? It might help to have the option of buying the ebook for something like the PB price, but maybe not.I think I've sold like 8 ebook copies out of four novels.

Don't know. Starting out trying to be helpful, but I'm stymied. Sorry.

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